Studio X Insights: Creating Strixhaven’s Mystical Archive

Studio X Insights: Creating Strixhaven’s Mystical Archive

March 25, 2021 | 6 min to read

Strixhaven's Mystical Archive is made up of sixty-three fan-favorite cards from across Magic's history, selected from every instant and sorcery ever cast across the Magic Multiverse—and Magic fans are eager for more information on these stunning spells.

And what better place to get that info than from their local game store? Share these insights with your fans and get them excited for the set!

We caught up with Wizards' Senior Creative Art Director, Tom Jenkot, for a behind-the-scenes peek into Strixhaven's Mystical Archive and the Japanese Alt-Art variants—including which fan-favorite artists to look out for.

What inspired the design and showcase frames of the global Mystical Archive cards?

Mystical Archive cards can be found throughout the set—Draft and Set Boosters contain one Mystical Archive card, and Collector Boosters have at least three.

We wanted to create art that fits in at the Biblioplex, Strixhaven’s incredible library of spells. We were thinking about historical recordings and other records that would fit in a library—like old books tucked in the backs of shelves.

We were particularly inspired by illuminated manuscripts—old texts with elaborate borders for decoration—and that style really shines on the borders of these cards. The foil etched versions draw out that style even more beautifully.

Can you tell us about the artists working on the Mystical Archive cards?

Some Magic artists you might be familiar with contributed to the Mystical Archive: Mark Tedin, Olena Richards, and Robbie Trevino.

Dominik Mayer and Anato Finnstark, who did some work on the Zendikar Booster Fun also contributed.

A lot of new artists killed it, too—Ravina Cai, Justin & Alexis Hernandez, Minttu Hynninen, Matthew G. Lewis, Benjamin Ee, Barbara Rosiak, Carly Mazur, and Kristina Collantes (who has contributed to Secret Lair!).

What about the Japanese Alt-Art Mystical Archive variants? What inspired those?

Japanese Alt-Art Mystical Archive variants will be found in Japanese Strixhaven Draft, Set and Collector Boosters, and at least one will come in Strixhaven Collector Boosters in all languages.

We wanted to keep that manuscript inspiration so the cards still felt like they belonged in a library as old as the Biblioplex. So, we were drawn to traditional Japanese art styles as a starting point, and then pushed into modern styles from there.

The style is even older than the illuminated manuscripts that inspired the global Mystical Archive cards, so it fits perfectly with the idea that you'd be digging these spells out of a hidden bookshelf in the Biblioplex.

How did you choose the artists for the Japanese Alt-Art Mystical Archive variants?

I worked directly with Kogado, a Japanese art agency that’s been in business for 200 years! Crazy cool. I created a style guide detailing the visual targets that would help Kogado select the artists and help the artists create a commonality across all the illustrations.

Kogado then sent me hundreds of artists along with samples of their work to browse. From there, I assessed if each artist fit the target style and gave notes about what type of cards they might be best for. Then it was off to the races!

You might have seen some of their work in previous sets, particularly the Japanese variants for War of the Spark:

Hisashi Momose— Saheeli, Sublime Artificer and Vivien, Champion of the Wilds

Tada—Gideon Blackblade

Norikatsu Miyoshi—Samut, Tyrant Smasher and The Wanderer

Hagiya Kaoru—Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage

D-Suzuki—Arlinn, Voice of the Pack

Shishizaru—Teferi, Time Raveler

The return of these fan-favorite artists is huge for the Magic community—this info is being shared for the first time on the WPN, so be sure to pass the news along and get your community hyped for Strixhaven!

And remember to tune in to twitch.tv/Magic on March 25 to learn more about Strixhaven, including even more information on the Mystical Archive.

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